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Headlines for Thursday, June 5, 2014


Kansas Joins Call for State Power to Review VA Sites

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says allowing states to inspect U.S. Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics would help the federal agency with what he calls credibility problems. Brownback also said Thursday that giving vouchers to veterans who've been waiting for care at VA facilities so they could get care elsewhere is the best way to deal with backlogs. The governor made his comments a day after an official at the VA medical center in Wichita confirmed it had an unauthorized list of 385 veterans who were waiting for care, some of them for more than 90 days. On Tuesday, Brownback joined fellow Republican governors from five other states in sending a letter to Democratic President Barack Obama. The letter called for state reviews of VA sites and federal vouchers for veterans.


Kansas Congressmen Demanding Answers on VA Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas congressmen Mike Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp are demanding answers from the U.S. Veterans Affairs medical center in Wichita about its unauthorized waiting list for care. Pompeo sent a letter Thursday to medical center Director Francisco Vazquez, asking who allowed the center to create its unauthorized list and when. Medical Center Executive Secretary Diane Henderson said Wednesday that 385 veterans had been on the list, some longer than 90 days. But she declined further comment Thursday. Pompeo also asked whether employees responsible for the list's creation had been disciplined. Pompeo's 4th District includes Wichita. Huelskamp represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas and serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He traveled to the Wichita medical center Wednesday. He said Thursday he received few answers then.


Missouri Senator: Kansas City VA Had Secret List

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt says the Veterans Affairs medical center in Kansas City, Missouri, has been maintaining a secret waiting list of veterans, the latest of several centers around the country to maintain such an unauthorized list. Blunt spokeswoman Amber Marchand says the list contains the names of 37 patients. Blunt's office said Thursday that the Kansas City VA confirmed the list hours after Blunt sent a letter asking if the secret list existed. Blunt told reporters in a teleconference earlier Thursday that such a list allows VA centers to skew statistics and give misleading information about how quickly veterans are getting treatment. The Kansas City VA Medical Center says in a statement that its top priority is addressing the problem of veterans waiting for health care.


Senate VA Bill Could Mean New Clinic in Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill winning approval from U.S. senators to resolve problems in the troubled Veterans Affairs system would create new health facilities, including one in Johnson County in Kansas. Under the larger bill agreed to by senior senators Thursday, the measure authorizes the VA to lease 26 new walk-in health facilities in 18 states and spend $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses. One of those proposed facilities would be in Johnson County. It's uncertain when the bill would come to a vote. The Senate bill is a response to a building national uproar over veterans' health care following allegations that as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting an average 115 days for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital or its walk-in clinics.


Storms Hit Central Kansas with Hail and High Winds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Thunderstorms pounded sections of central Kansas with baseball-size hail, high winds and heavy rains early this (THUR) morning. The National Weather Service says winds estimated up to 80 mph swept through the area and that rainfall amounts varied from more than 1 inch in northeast Wichita, to more than 2 inches in McPherson. Hail measuring more than 3 inches in diameter was reported in McPherson, and hail about 2.75 inches in diameter was reported south of Galva.The heavy storms also snapped tree limbs and downed power lines. More than 1,000 Westar customers were without electricity in Saline County early Thursday, and nearly that many were also without power in Sedgwick County. Chancy Smith, director of Dickinson County Emergency Management, said there were also sporadic outages in Abilene, Hope and Herington.


Storm Derails Train Cars in NE Kansas

WILLIS, Kan. (AP) _ Crews are using heavy equipment to move 52 empty coal cars away from tracks in northeast Kansas after they were derailed by high winds amid powerful storms early Wednesday morning. Union Pacific officials say no one was injured when the cars were toppled around in the Brown County community of Willis. The 134-car coal train was bound from Wyoming to Arkansas and stopped because of the extreme weather. A tornado warning had been issued, and the train's emergency technology alerted the crew that wind gusts were high enough to put the cars at risk of derailing. Union Pacific says the track escaped damage because the wind simply pushed the 52 cars onto their sides.

Kansas Man Convicted in Death of Iraq War Veteran

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man who admitted hitting an Iraq War veteran with a beer bottle during a house party brawl has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the man's death. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a lawyer for 23-year-old Justin Gonzalez said she would appeal Thursday's conviction on the basis of jury instructions and excluded evidence. Gonzalez, of Mission, testified he struck 27-year-old Nicholas Sardina at a Lawrence house party in February 2012. Gonzalez said he acted after Sardina punched one of his friends. Prosecutors said Gonzalez used excessive force in striking Sardina, who later died from his injury. Sardina, originally from Clarence, New York, was a sergeant in the Kansas National Guard and had served three tours in Iraq. He had also taken classes at the University of Kansas.


Kansas Gun Dealer, Glock Execs Face Indictment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas firearms distributor and two high-ranking officials with Glock Inc. are among five people indicted by a federal grand jury on charges involving bribes and kickbacks to gain preferential treatment. Federal prosecutors say 40-year-old Olathe gun dealer John Sullivan Ralph III paid more than $1 million to 42-year-old James "Craig" Dutton of Acworth, Georgia, and 65-year-old Welcome D. "Bo" Wood Jr. of Oviedo, Florida, from 2003 to 2011. The Kansas City Star reports Ralph did business as OMB Guns and is accused of funneling the money through businesses created by the wives of Dutton and Wood. Both of the couples also are charged. The indictment says the two company officials steered potential customers to OMB Guns and helped Ralph sell guns intended for law enforcement to commercial businesses.


2 Suspects Charged in Shooting Near Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Two people have been charged with attempted first-degree murder after a motorist was shot on a highway near Lawrence. Twenty-two-year-old Brittany Nicole Smith of Eudora and 25-year-old Edward Joseph Parker of Lawrence were charged Wednesday. Parker's bond was set at $150,000 and Smith's was set for $75,000. Douglas County authorities say 24-year-old Skylar Workman of Lawrence was shot May 26 as he drove on Highway 59 south of Lawrence. He is still recovering at a Topeka hospital. The motive for the shooting has never been made public, but authorities say it was not a random act of violence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the suspects' next court appearances are scheduled for June 10. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.


Pipe Bomb Found Near Salina Church

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say a pipe bomb found near a church would have seriously hurt anyone nearby if it had exploded. Salina resident Jared Shirack found the bomb Tuesday evening near the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The Riley County Bomb Team eventually detonated the device. No one was injured. Shirack says the bomb was in an oatmeal container sitting next to trash cans in the church's parking lot, with duct tape around it. He says he found a homemade explosive with a long fuse inside, also wrapped in duct tape. The Salina Journal reports that it was the second pipe bomb found in Salina in recent weeks. The first exploded near a park in south Salina, killing 46-year-old Wayne Guerrant. Police say the two incidents are not connected.


KS Businessman Opens Independent Bid for U.S. Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas businessman is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate and advocating open primary elections to blunt what he says is the influence of extremists in both major parties. Greg Orman of Olathe met with reporters Wednesday at the Statehouse as part of a six-city tour to open his campaign. He's seeking the seat now held by three-term incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. The 45-year-old Orman is co-founder of the capital and business management firm Denali Partners. He said he believes Washington has become too partisan to solve problems and he advocates that states hold a single open primary, with the final two candidates advancing to the general election. Orman needs to collect signatures from 5,000 registered voters to get on the ballot in November.


New Kansas Law Limits Party Switching in July

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas voters will have less time to switch parties before the August 5 primary election because of a new law championed by the state Republican Party. Party switching won't be allowed in July, when the new policy takes effect. The ban will remain in effect until the secretary of state certifies the results of the party primaries, which usually occurs at the end of August. In 2016, the ban on party switching will take effect in June. Previously, Kansas voters could switch up to two weeks before the primary. The GOP-dominated Legislature approved the measure after state Republican Party leaders argued that encouraging Democratic voters to switch parties to influence GOP primaries is akin to election fraud. Democrats argued the measure restricts voting rights.


Reports: Sprint Makes Arrangement to Buy T-Mobile 

The Overland Park-based telecom firm Sprint has reportedly worked out an arrangement to purchase T-Mobile US. The Kansas City Star reports that Spring would pay about $32 billion to acquire the T-Mobile. The deal would add about 54 million subscribers for Sprint, making it the third-largest carrier behind Verizon and AT&T. Sprint has not commented on the proposed deal. Any buyout would have to be approved by the FCC and the U.S. Justice Department. 


Kansas City Primps for 2016 GOP Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The chairman of the Republican National Committee says Kansas City may have an edge over some other cities working to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Thursday that Kansas City "has a nice little advantage" by being able to host the event in either June or July. Priebus and the RNC site selection committee arrived in Kansas City on Wednesday to look over the facilities that would be used during the convention. The committee, which leaves Kansas City on Friday, visited Cleveland earlier this week and travels next to Dallas and Denver before making a final selection, likely in August. Priebus says the start date of the convention is likely to get underway on either June 27 or July 18, but a final decision hasn't been made.


Sidewalk Pianos Tempt Players in Downtown Emporia

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Anyone itching to make a little music could head to downtown Emporia, where a dozen specially decorated pianos have been placed along several blocks of sidewalks. KVOE radio reports that the annual "Pianos on the Pavement" event is underway in the eastern Kansas community. The event is timed to the Kansas City Symphony's popular Symphony in the Flint Hills conert. This year's concert will take place June 14 at Gottsch Cattle Company's Rosalia Ranch in Butler County. The pianos will remain on the Emporia sidewalks through the concert weekend. "Pianos on the Pavement" organizer George Milton credits his wife, Gail, for starting Emporia's event after seeing a similar activity in New York City several years ago.


KS Oil Production Increased in 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Horizontal drilling, also known as fracking, helped boost oil production numbers slightly in Kansas last year. But experts say natural gas continued its downward spiral due to low prices and a reluctance to invest in new production. Oil production rose to about 47 million barrels last year. Most of the increase was in southern and western Kansas.


Dole Announces Schedule for Next Kansas Tour

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole returns to Kansas next week for the fourth of several trips planned this year to his home state. The 90-year-old Russell native lives in Washington, D.C., and is making the homecoming tour to greet longtime friends and supporters throughout the state. Dole spends an hour at each stop, chatting with fans and old acquaintances. Aides said Thursday that next week's trip will begin Monday evening in Garden City. On Tuesday, Dole is to visit Lakin, Syracuse, Tribune, Leoti and Scott City. The schedule for Wednesday has stops in Dighton, Ness City, LaCrosse and Great Bend. Dole's tour concludes Thursday, June 12, with visits to Lyons, St. John, Larned and Hanston.


McPherson Police Release Identity of Man Killed by Police Officer

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) - McPherson police say the man who was shot and killed by an officer was a 56-year-old from Kanopolis. The McPherson Police Department said in a statement that Timothy Ronald Lloyd "charged" at officers before being shot Wednesday afternoon. Authorities said when officers were called to investigate a hit-and-run accident in the central Kansas community, the suspect vehicle was gone. Officers eventually found Lloyd. Police say he charged at one officer, who fired several shots. Lloyd was pronounced dead at a McPherson hospital. Police said the 18-year-old woman whose vehicle was struck in the hit-and-run was treated and released at a McPherson hospital. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is helping with the investigation.


2 Held in Death of 3-Year-Old Wichita Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman and her boyfriend are being held on suspicion of first-degree murder after the woman's 3-year-old daughter died at a hospital. KAKE-TV reports that Emma Krueger died Wednesday night, two days after she was hospitalized with what doctors described as head injuries and extensive bruising. The 24-year-old mother and her 23-year-old boyfriend were initially arrested on suspicion of child abuse. Police rebooked them following the girl's death on suspicion of felony first-degree murder. Investigators expect to present their case to the Sedgwick County district attorney on Friday. Police said the adults and the toddler had been living at a Wichita apartment complex for about three months. Investigators believe Emma had been abused for several weeks before she was taken to the hospital Monday when she stopped breathing.


Change for Reno Co Parole Violators Gets Mixed Reviews

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A law that allows brief jail stays for minor parole violations is getting mixed reviews from corrections officials and law enforcement agencies in Reno County. The law enacted last July lets offenders avoid having their parole revoked for small violations, in exchange for short prison stays. Since then Reno County has made more use of the law than any other county per capita. Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts says the law has freed up prison space across the state, helping reduce overcrowding. The Hutchinson News reports Reno County Deputy District Attorney Tom Stanton says he supports the idea behind the bill, but he has found it difficult to enforce. And he says the sanctions don't do anything to change people's behavior.


Tribe Signs Agreements for Oklahoma Site Cleanup

QUAPAW, Okla. (AP) — The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has signed an agreement with the state to clean up contaminated waste left over from decades of mining. The tribe announced Wednesday that it has signed the agreement with the State of Oklahoma and the Environmental Protection Agency to perform additional remediation within the Tar Creek Superfund site. Under the agreement, the tribe will remove approximately 72,000 tons of contaminated material and haul it to a nearby repository. The tribe has also signed an agreement with the EPA to clean up various properties in southeast Kansas. The Tar Creek Superfund site is a 40-square-mile area that includes portions of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.


KS/MO Planned Parenthood Gets New Director

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A top officer of a New York City-based organization that promotes women's equality worldwide has been named as the new director for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. The group says Laura McQuade will begin her new role early next month. She replaces Peter Brownlie, who stepped down at the end of March after serving as the chapter's top administrator since 1999. McQuade has been chief operating officer at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York for the past six years.


Kansas Oil Producer Knocks Prairie Chicken Status

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita oil company executive says the federal government's listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened has hampered his firm's operations in western Kansas. Vess Oil Corporation chairman J. Michael Vess says his company recently abandoned three western Kansas sites where it was ready to put up drilling rigs. He says the company has backed away from exploring 10 to 15 sites because of the listing. Vess blamed potential fees from the federal government and other requirements to help preserve lesser prairie chicken habitats. The federal government announced the listing in March and said it's justified by the steep decline in the bird's population in recent years.


Jim Ryun Remembers Record-Setting Race

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas native Jim Ryun is noting the 50th anniversary of the race that made him the first high school student to run a mile under 4 minutes. Ryun was a 17-year-old junior at East High School in Wichita competing against older runners on June 5, 1964 at the Compton Invitational near Los Angeles. He ran the mile in 3 minutes, 59 seconds. He was bumped during the race and finished eighth but it began a career in which Ryun went on to set world records and compete in the Olympics. Only five high school runners have broken 4 minutes since then. Ryan did it three times. The Wichita Eagle reports Ryun will be at San Diego's Balboa Stadium Thursday evening, where the milestone will be honored.


Miller Moths Hanging Around Central Plains

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) — A bug expert says the relatively mild winter let more miller moths survive to hang around the Midwest longer this year. Entomologist David Boxler with the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, Nebraska says relatively lower temperatures this spring encouraged them to remain, but they'll move west into the Rockies when the higher, summer temperatures arrive. Boxler told The North Platte Telegraph that miller moths are also known as army cutworm moths. They lay eggs in the open fields of the Central Plains, and this spring their emerging larvae caused problems as they fed heavily in alfalfa and wheat fields. The moths will return this fall to lay eggs in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa.




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